Once upon a real time, my uncle started an engineering firm. It was quite successful, and he still works there today. Throughout his time at the firm, he has worked with many very ‘successful’ college graduates, the so-called best and the brightest. He says recent grads consistently ask for two main things.
- One: They ask, “So do we get every other Friday off?”
- Two: They ask, “So what do you want me to do?”
You see, engineering is a job where employees are asked to solve problems, to innovate, and to think outside the box. Engineers are not simply expected to wait for orders. Unfortunately, this is not what we teach in schools.
In school, we teach there is only one right answer, and it needs to be memorized. In school, we teach the instructor alone holds the knowledge, and students need to wait obediently to access it. In school, we teach that curiosity and creativity are only fine within certain parameters. In school, the grade one ‘earns’ is more important than the idea or innovation one creates.
Its not just engineers who are asked to think like this today. Increasingly, we have a workforce and a people who are asked to engage differently with the world. Yet, schools teach skills that match a world full of automatons and factory workers, not creators and makers.
This is why we need a learning that is not only more engaging and enjoyable, but also more relevant and purposeful. We need young people who are comfortable with, and know how to, tackle big problems and big ideas. We need young people who aren’t afraid to think different, make mistakes, and learn from failure. This is the opportunity creative learning presents. I believe one of the best ways to implement creative learning is through project based learning (PBL). Look at how we can re-imagine schools with PBL.
- Students can build a fair immigration policy, not memorize a speech.
- Students can create sustainable development plans for their community, not finish worksheets.
- Students can investigate global warming, not read textbooks.
- Students can design systems to halt disease, not take standardized tests.
- Students can design their schools, not sit passively in a desk.
Projects-based learning is an essential pedagogy to educate the creative learners the world needs.